Here's Where Things Stand in The Democratic Presidential Primary Heading Into 2020

While the election year is nearly upon us, there are still more than a dozen candidates vying for the Democratic Party's nomination to take on President Donald Trump in a head-to-head matchup next November.

The 15 Democratic candidates continuing their campaigns into 2020 are Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Tom Steyer, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.

But nationally the race has largely shifted to a three-candidate competition among Biden, Sanders and Warren. This trio has been steadily topping nearly every national poll for months.

In the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, Biden was in the lead, with 24 percent support from Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independents. The former vice president was closely followed by Sanders, who had 22 percent support. The survey showed Warren finishing third, with 17 percent of Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independents backing her bid.

But the early-voting states are a bit of a different story. With less than six weeks until the Iowa caucuses, the nation's first 2020 contests, Buttigieg has experienced a meteoric rise in the battleground state. A CNN/Des Moines Register poll from November showed the South Bend, Indiana mayor, topping the field, with 25 percent support in the state. He was followed by Warren, Biden and Sanders.

Plus, there are candidates who just recently entered the race who have the resources to make a big impact in 2020. Bloomberg, a former New York City mayor estimated to be worth $54 billion, joined the primary field at the end of November. Tom Steyer, another billionaire candidate, climbed enough in the polls to qualify for the December debate stage ahead of several career politicians.

Even though the Democratic field remains large, veteran political strategist Joe Trippi predicts that the list of candidates will start to break down "immediately after Iowa."

"We have had multi-candidate fields before. The problem is that we haven't had any in decades. People totally underestimate how important Iowa is in terms of changing the dynamic of the race," Trippi told Newsweek. "It's always been that way, and unless the laws of gravity have been totally scientifically disproven, that is what I think will happen."

But even the Democratic primary's top-tier candidates, such as Biden or Buttigieg, may have a hard time defeating Trump in the general election. The president is still polling exceptionally well among Republicans, and surveys from key states like Texas show him defeating every potential Democratic challenger.

Allan Lichtman, an American historian who has correctly predicted every presidential election since 1984, told Newsweek that the 2020 race is "too close to call."

democratic primary heading into 2020
From left, Democratic presidential hopefuls Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer during the sixth Democratic presidential debate on December 19. More than a dozen candidates are still vying for the party's nomination. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Lichtman is perhaps best known for developing the "13 keys to the White House"—a list of "true or false" criteria he uses to make his electoral predictions. The metrics include things like the economy, incumbency and scandal. When five or fewer metrics are false for the incumbent, Lichtman predicts a re-election win. But if six or more metrics are false for the White House occupier, the system predicts that the challenger will win.

"Only one of the keys pertains to the identity of the challenging party candidate, and that is whether that candidate is a once-in-a-generation, inspirational, charismatic candidate like a Ronald Reagan or a John F. Kennedy. So far, I don't see anyone in the Democratic field capable of turning that particular key against Donald Trump and the Republicans," Lichtman said.

The American University professor added that these metrics may change once the Democratic Party has officially nominated its candidate, but as of right now, "none of the nominees show real inspirational potential across the entire electorate."

"In the age of Trump, things can change overnight, so this is a very difficult year to make a definitive prediction," Lichtman said.

Next up for the 15 Democratic candidates are the early-voting contests and several debates. The Iowa caucus will be held February 3, followed by the New Hampshire primary on February 11 and South Carolina's on February 29.

There are also four Democratic debates scheduled in early 2020. The Democratic National Committee recently announced a debate in Iowa on January 14, one in New Hampshire on February 7, another in Nevada on February 19 and a fourth in South Carolina on February 25.

The committee is once again raising the requirement thresholds for participation in the seventh Democratic debate, in Iowa, despite criticism from candidates.